5 Reasons Philips Hue Bulbs Are Overpriced and Pointless
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Didn’t you hear? Philips Hue light bulbs are all the rage. You can make them automatically turn on when you pull into your driveway, get them to glow in different colors if you’re hosting a party, and even color-wash your wall to match your TV’s output when you’re watching a movie.

Sure, they’re all cool features… sort of. But none of them exclusively require a Philips Hue system Philips Hue Starter Kit Review and Giveaway Philips Hue Starter Kit Review and Giveaway The market is flooded by bulbs with wifi, all with their own silly mobile app that you need to fuss around with to turn them on. Is the Hue any different? We find out. Read More to achieve. There are easier, cheaper, and more practical options available.

In this article, I’m going to argue that Philips Hue smart lights are both overpriced and pointless. Keep reading to find out why.

1. Cost

Before I get into a more technical discussion, let’s take a moment to consider the price.

If you want to install Philips Hue smart lights in your home, the first thing you need is a Starter Pack. It contains three light bulbs and a bridge to wirelessly connect them all together. The latest third generation kit costs $200. Even the slightly older second generation will set you back $180.

Philips Hue 464479 60W Equivalent White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit, 3rd Generation, Works with Amazon Alexa Philips Hue 464479 60W Equivalent White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit, 3rd Generation, Works with Amazon Alexa Bathe your home in millions of colors (with improved, richer cyan, green, and blue) and shades of white light, tailored to your mood or need, controlled wirelessly via a smart device. Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display

“Ah,” I hear you say, “most of that money is probably for the bridge, and that’s a one-time purchase.” Sadly, that’s not the case. The three included light bulbs are the White and Color Ambiance A19 model. Individually, they retail for about $50. The three light bulbs in the Starter Pack are worth almost three-quarters of the purchase price.

You’re paying $150 for three light bulbs. Take a moment to do the math: how much would it cost to fill your whole home with the Hue system?

Go ahead and count how many light bulbs are in your home — I promise it will be more than you think. I have 54 in my house, not including exterior lights. If I want a White and Color Ambiance A19 Hue bulb in every socket, it will cost me $2,430.

And as for the one-time cost of the bridge? Forget it. You can only connect 50 lights to each unit. To fill my entire home with Hue, I’d need a second bridge.

Just for a laugh, let’s compare the Hue price with regular energy-efficient light bulbs. A pack of four Philips 60W Equivalent Soft White A19 LED Light Bulbs costs $7 at Home Depot. I could light my entire home for less than $100.

Less technology? Absolutely. But I think it’s safe to say most people would rather have $1,520 extra in their pocket and settle for standard light bulbs.

2. Electricity Bill

Let’s stick with the financial side of this discussion. Proponents of the Philips Hue system claim it will save you money on your electricity bill — if your home is filled with old incandescent bulbs, that’s probably true. However, the savings are decidedly less than Philips would like you to believe.

Let’s do the math. If you live in the United States, an incandescent bulb will set you back about $4 per year in electricity. A Philips Hue bulb will cost you $1 per year. At Home Depot, one Philips 60W incandescent bulb costs $2.23, and the less expensive white-only A19 ambiance Hue bulb costs $30. Lastly, one incandescent bulb last around 3,000 hours while one Hue bulb lasts about 25,000 hours.

Let’s assume an average home has 40 light bulbs in it, and each light bulb is running for two hours per day (some will be on for a lot longer, but most will be on for considerably less time).

Initial Cost

  • Incandescent — 40 bulbs x $2.23 = $89
  • Hue — 40 bulbs x $30 = $1,200

Running Cost

  • Incandescent — 40 bulbs x $4 = $160 per year
  • Hue — 40 bulbs x $1 = $40 per year

Replacement Cost

  • Incandescent — 3,000 hours lifespan / 2 hours per day = 4.1 years per bulb
  • Hue — 25,000 hours lifespan / 2 hours per day = 34.2 years per bulb

Total Cost Over 30 Years

  • Incandescent — $669 in light bulbs + $4,800 in running costs = $5,469
  • Hue — $1,200 in light bulbs + $1,200 in running costs = $2,400

By switching from incandescent bulbs to Hue bulbs, you’d save a little over $3,000 in 30 years, or $100 per year.

To put this another way, it would take you almost a decade to break even, and that’s before you consider accidental breakages, power surges, and other things that might cause you to buy bulbs outside the regular replacement cycle.

Finally, how many people are still using incandescent bulbs? If you’re already running energy efficient LED bulbs, the savings are almost non-existent.

3. Features

What about the bulbs themselves? What can they do?

We cover some features and tricks 6 Ways to Make Philips Hue Lights More Useful 6 Ways to Make Philips Hue Lights More Useful Read More in detail in articles elsewhere on the site. You can control the lights from an Arduino How to Control Philips Hue Lights from an Arduino (and Add a Motion Sensor) How to Control Philips Hue Lights from an Arduino (and Add a Motion Sensor) Today I'll be showing you how to control your Hue lights from an Arduino - then adding a simple motion sensor. Read More and add a motion sensor, control them with your voice using Jasper, backlight your TV using the HueImmersive Java app, and even make your lights flash 4 Ways Philips Hue Can Push Your Lighting to the Next Level 4 Ways Philips Hue Can Push Your Lighting to the Next Level Without Philips Hue, however, the smart home concept might never have gotten off the ground. Here are some cool ways to make use of them. Read More when you’re tagged in a social media post.

But have a look through those articles and at the Jasper and HueImmersive apps. What do they all have in common? That’s right: they don’t use the native Hue app. At best, you’ll need significant time spent with IFTTT to make them work. At worst, you’ll need to be a skilled Java programmer.

philips hue app

When you see articles and YouTube videos that deploy Philips Hue lights in weird and wacky ways, they almost always need some level of programming skill. The main Philips Hue app is disappointingly basic. It’s so basic, in fact, that it’s possible to list all its native features in a few short bullet points:

  • Control all the lights in an individual room at the same time.
  • Turn off all the lights in your home with one tap.
  • Create lighting schedules that support your daily routines.
  • Create scenes using different brightness and colors.

Frankly, you should expect more for $1,600. If you’re not tech-savvy, you’re almost certain to be left feeling underwhelmed and ripped off.

4. Long-Term Support

How long is Philips going to keep making the Hue range of products? Earlier, I said you could expect to save around $100 per year if you have a 30-year timeframe. But what guarantees do you have that Hue will still be a “thing” in 30 years?

If anything, it’s highly unlikely that the product line will still exist, at least in its current form. If Philips stops supporting the Hue app in 10 years, you’re essentially left with some very expensive energy-efficient bulbs. Yes, they’ll still turn on, but you won’t have any way to access their coolest features.

support keyboard
Image Credit: FRadu via Shutterstock

Obviously, you can make the argument about ongoing support for a lot of tech products, but there are very few tech products you will buy with a 30-year timeframe in mind. Ultimately, investing in Hue is risky.

5. Cheaper Alternatives

Lastly, remember the Philips Hue is not the only smart lighting system on the market. There are lots of alternatives Philips Hue Alternatives That Are Actually Worth It Philips Hue Alternatives That Are Actually Worth It The Philips Hue system is leading the charge when it comes to smart lighting, but there are some worthy alternatives. We've picked three that all offer the same basic feature set and hackability. Read More out there, many of which have the same number of features but cost a lot less money Philips Hue Smart Bulb Alternatives to Save Money Philips Hue Smart Bulb Alternatives to Save Money In this article, you’ll learn about some of the less expensive alternatives to Philips Hue and see how they compare. Read More .

For example, the Belkin WeMo system only costs $50 for a Starter Set, with each additional light bulb only setting you back $18.

belkin wemo light

TP-Link goes one step better. The company’s smart lights don’t even need a bridge or hub. They work with both iOS and Android devices thanks to the free Kasa app.

Lastly, check out the Nyrius Wireless Smart LED Multicolor Light Bulbs. They are Bluetooth-enabled and can be controlled directly from your device. Best of all, each light only costs $15. On the downside, you can only connect seven lights to the app, but if you want to introduce smart lights to a particular room in your home, it’s a more accessible and cheaper option than Philips Hue.

Nyrius Wireless Smart White LED Light Bulb for Smartphones and Tablets, iOS and Android App Remotely Controls On/Off, Scheduling and Dimming Functions, Bluetooth Energy Efficient Home Automation(SB09) Nyrius Wireless Smart White LED Light Bulb for Smartphones and Tablets, iOS and Android App Remotely Controls On/Off, Scheduling and Dimming Functions, Bluetooth Energy Efficient Home Automation(SB09) Wirelessly control your home or business lighting and adjust the brightness, independently or in a group of up to 7 bulbs, through your Bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet Buy Now At Amazon

Do You Think Philips Hue Is Overpriced and Pointless?

I’ve made my case. I believe that the high cost and poor features make a compelling case for branding the Philips Hue system both overpriced and pointless.

But my mind is not set in stone. I want you to try to persuade me that I’m wrong.

Why are Philips Hue light bulbs an essential smart home item? Why shouldn’t I spend less money and buy an alternative system? Whether you agree or disagree, you can leave all your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Image Credits: Atsushi Hirao/Shutterstock

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  1. Logan
    July 13, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    I have the Hue system in my house and am fairly happy with it. The White A19 bulbs that are referenced in this article can be purchased individually for roughly $15.00.
    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Philips-60W-Equivalent-Soft-White-A19-Hue-Connected-Home-LED-Light-Bulb-455295/206633282

    I will admit the color bulbs and the bridge kits are a tad over-priced but I have a feeling that part of that cost is still going towards paying for R&D of the Hue products.

    I have the hue software on my android phone and use it occasionally. I have an Amazon Alexa DOT in each of the rooms of my house and use those to verbally control the hue lights.

  2. ts
    July 10, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    Ikea's Tradfri are less expensive, and brighter at 1000 lumen vs Philips' 800.

    A big drawback of the entire Philips Hue family is that the Bridge is a massive single point of failure. I had mine become unresponsive after an update, and my house was left in the dark for days, until I could install a new one. A Bridge costs only $40, not a big amount if you consider all the lights it might control. They should design the Bridge so that it can work in pairs, and one can provide redundancy while the other updates, or in case one breaks. After all, illumination is a critical service, and if you can't rely on this, you are better of with candles!

  3. Andrew
    July 1, 2017 at 6:15 am

    While I do agree that they are too expensive, I still have some arguments on behalf for them: I was already starting to regret buying my entire home (15 lights)with hue bulbs mainly because the hue app sucks badly.
    Luckily I then bought the hue light switches which let me control the lights like normal lights.
    Then I got two pairs of motion detectors which have already saved a lot of hassle, and now my final purchase and maybe the savior for my setup is Google home.
    These days I basically don't touch anything, it's either the motion detectors or"ok Google" command doing all the work. I got so used to it that when traveling and staying at hotels I almost get annoyed that I have to go press the switch and not just control lights with my voice.

    But yes, they are too expensive and won't purchase more before the price goes down.

  4. Ironmarty
    June 30, 2017 at 11:57 am

    I'm sure there's other multicolor lighting systems available for much less , You just have to look around , Most likely in this case , What you're paying the high price for is the name , Not the quality , You need to ask yourself whether or not the quality is there and compare the quality with other systems , The only feasible thing you'd need multicolor lighting for is if you're throwing a party and you can get an LED multicolor light strand for alot less at Costco

  5. Ryan Dube
    June 30, 2017 at 1:19 am

    When I saw the Hue startup kit available in Best Buy I got pretty excited. Walked up to the case and saw the box featuring only two bulbs with the required bridge for nearly $70. Seriously? Two light bulbs for $70? I can get a pack of 16 low-wattage, energy-saving LED bulbs on Amazon for $25, and I'm going to sink $70 for a couple of light bulbs so that I can flip them on and off and change the light in the room different colors? Give me a break. This product has always been vastly overpriced, especially considering the growing field of much more affordable alternatives.

    • Ironmarty
      June 30, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      Hello Ryan , multicolor lighting is what you'd use for parties and you can get a multicolor light strand with the bulbs for alot less at Costco , You can set it to change colors and do other things , The bulbs are LED , So they won't drastically raise your electric bill , Most likely , With the Philips hue system , The high price you're paying is for the name

  6. Jordan
    June 29, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    What kind of an article is this? The hue starter kit with WHITE bulbs is $65 for a hub + 2 bulbs. You compared color bulbs to other systems that only offer white bulbs, so of course the color system is more expensive. And the normal white hue bulbs are $15 each, not $30.

    What isn't considered about the cheaper systems is ease of use and security. The Wemo app is much less user friendly and more bug prone than the Hue app, and while I have no experience with the tp-link app, having the wifi settings stored on IoT devices is much less secure than using a bridge with Ethernet. You're having to trust that tp-link is patching security holes to prevent snoopers from finding your WiFi settings from your lightbulbs (a problem that has occurred with many IoT devices).

    None of this even considers the fact that hue offers color bulbs, like I mentioned at the start. If you want to set the color of your lights, then the added cost makes sense. If not, Hue is just as viable as and potentially more secure than these other systems.

  7. Chris
    June 29, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I'd be interested in where you are getting a $30 price tag on the white and color ambiance A19 bulbs. They are on sale right now on Amazon for . $45. If you can't get the price of what you are comparing about right I can't trust the rest of what you said. Also, to think that anyone is going to replace all the bulbs in a house with white and color ambiance bulbs is just ignorant. Put color bulbs where you want them and white ambiance A19s everywhere else. The white ambiance run about fifteen bucks a bulb

    • Dan Price
      June 29, 2017 at 11:34 pm

      You're right. I was getting mixed up with the white ambiance model I used further down which retails for $30 on the Hue website. Thanks for alerting me, I've changed it.

      Dan

  8. PFran42
    June 29, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    "...Light Bulbs costs $7 at Home Depot. I could light my entire home for less than $100"

    Do you even math bro?

    54 bulbs...

    • Dan Price
      June 29, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      " A pack of four "

    • Paulette
      July 4, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Do you even read, bro?

  9. Kyle Kepner
    June 29, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Where I'm the world have you found the color light bulbs for 30 they are usually 49.99

    • Dan Price
      June 29, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      You're right, I was mixed up with the white-only I discussed further down. I fixed it.

      Dan

  10. PFran42
    June 29, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Do you even math bro?? How is 7x54 less than 100?

    • Dan Price
      June 29, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      7/4 = 1.75
      1.75 x 54 = 94.5

  11. Mane
    June 29, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    I've had Hue long enough to be seeing profit then, nice!
    You don't mention what other features you want other than the ability to control bulbs individually or as a group based on time, location, or manual input. They're lightbulbs! They wake you up with a sunrise in the morning, or turn on automatically in an emergency at night, but they aren't going to make you coffee or put out a fire.
    They can disco to music, bond to my old Philips TV via an app, the newer ones directly, to give surrounding ambient lighting matching the TV (which is amazing by the way).
    The support has only got better, despite the split between the TV department (TP Vision) and Philips the lighting company. Facebook gets a quick response.

    New features, and input methods, are available as more smart home stuff becomes available, amazon echo can control them with voice (as she can with most of the other bulb systems).

  12. Dean
    June 29, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    In what world does the average home have 40 bulbs?

    There are tons of apps on iOS and android to add cool features to you hue system for free and with no programming needed.

    They aren't meant to be cheap, they are a luxury item for people who love tech or things that make their lives easier. We have our house rigged up with bulbs and we control them via our devices, wall switches, and our VOICE via Google home (Alexa can do it too).

    You come across as trying very very hard to find ways to back up your argument and failing to rustle up anything genuine.

    • Sawyer
      June 29, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      I agree with Dean 100%. Also, most don't outfit the whole home with Hue, why would need them in closets and bathrooms. Most just use them in the living room for movie experience or maybe in kitchen or bedside lamps. The color and ambiance bulbs aren't truly meant to replace every single bulb. They have much cheaper bulbs that still link to hub without dimming and color features.

      Then"features" may seem pointless to you but they offer very immersive experiences during movies, offer different light to read by, along with many other free and interesting things to do. Plus it's a premium experience with the app and the way you can interact with whole rooms or individual bulbs. Premium experiences cost you. When the bulbs are strategically placed the on off routines and location aware features are awesome. They can create real comfort if you live alone. These are only a few reasons my wife and I really love the Phillips hue bulbs.